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When I was first getting started as a web designer, it used to drive me crazy when I would follow other web designers online trying to decode their secrets to success, and every time they were asked “how do you find all those dreamy clients?” every single one of them would say “oh, pretty much all of my clients come from referrals and word of mouth.”

Yeah…

Not super helpful to someone with exactly zero previous clients to actually refer them, right?

But that’s the thing…sometimes it really does just take one happy past client to get that referral train rolling!

And how you handle those first few clients really can be the difference between having to go out and hand search for your next client every time a project ends, vs. having a steady stream of eager clients being sent your way!

I hope you’ll join me in welcoming lovely past student Lauren Taylar as she shares how implementing a rather generous referral incentive program (combined with a few other simple marketing strategies she shares in this interview) has totally sky-rocketed her business!

If you’ve been dreaming of becoming one of those designers who is fully booked out on referrals, but are hesitant to go giving away a chunk of your hard earned revenue in the form of a referral fee, then you will not want to miss what Lauren has to share in this interview!

Psssst! How incredibly gorgeous are these recent client designs by Lauren

USING A REFERRAL PROGRAM TO FIND DREAM CLIENTS

with Lauren Taylar

Q: What were you doing before you became a designer? (Did you have any coding/developing or design experience?)

So I worked in the SEO industry, that was my first job out of college.

I worked at an agency for two years, basically helping high profile individuals, and big corporations clean up their Google search results.

So if you type their name into Google, and there were some negative articles or bad reviews, we would try to push those down in the search results, not going against any Google’s guidelines, of course, but really trying to to make their Google Search appearance look more positive.

I learned a little bit about looking into the back end of websites to look at different SEO elements. But that was about as far as my coding knowledge went.

I didn’t really have much design experience…like, I took a couple graphic design courses in college (I was a public relations relations major, so naturally, I learned a little bit of graphic design) but it definitely wasn’t anything too extensive at all.

So I definitely had to learn those skills when I started my own online business.


Q: What made you want to become a designer?

I realized at my [day] job that I was doing more technical tasks, and I felt like I was missing something in my career.

So when I found out about the online business world, and people that were taking these online courses to learn things like website design, that sounded really intriguing…

Just having more of that artistic and creative outlet that I was lacking from my 9-5.

So I realized that combining my SEO experience of working at this agency with the design side of websites, was the perfect match for what I really wanted to be doing.

When I got that [day] job learning SEO just felt so foreign – a kind of random side to digital marketing.

But I realized when I started my business offering web design just how valuable that SEO experience and knowledge really was!

Q: What inspired you to take Square Secrets™️ & Square Secrets Business™️?

I had been following Paige for probably over a year by the time that I purchased Square Secrets™️, and I just I knew that she knew everything about Squarespace.

I’ve had been binging her blog and using it to put together my own website, but then I realized that I definitely need more direction.

If I wanted to be doing this for actual clients, I needed to invest in a course that was going to give me the knowledge, resources, and skills to be able to do that.

Q: Did you have Squarespace design experience prior to taking Square Secrets™️? How did your designs compare before vs. after taking the course?

I didn’t really have much experience besides going into the backend of Squarespace and playing around with different blocks, but I really didn’t know what I was doing.

After taking the course, I felt like I really knew a lot more about how to use Squarespace as a platform, but also about website strategy!

I completely revamped my website, and I felt so much more confident starting (like sending proposals to people who needed new websites)…my design capabilities just became so much better.

So I would say it was a really big difference. After I took the course I was like “I wish that I had done it sooner!”

Q: How did you land your first client?

So my first client was more of like a coworker from my 9-5 who had hired me to do his branding. He was going to do his website on his own. And he did, to a degree…but it was not good.

So I offered to give it an overhaul for free (because at that point, I only had my own website and then a couple of “fake” homepages that I put together just to have in my portfolio).

But my first paid client came soon after. She was a wedding photographer who posted in a Facebook group about needing a website.

And of course, when you see those Facebook threads, it’s like 50 other designers commenting with their website link too…

But I landed her as a client because I actually sent her an email with a website audit of her current website.

That’s what got her to set up a call with me, and because I outlined my process, she felt really confident with what I had to offer.

Q: What are some of the ways you find clients today?

There really isn’t one set way. But I would say referrals are big!

Clients also find me and Google and Instagram…and in-person events have been great (pre-covid, of course)!

I would go to different business networking events and pretty much walk away with a client from each one.

I’ve also gotten clients from online group coaching programs or masterminds, because you’re with a group of people for 6 months to a year and you get to really understand each other’s business and just having those connections.


Q: Can you tell us about how your client referral incentive program works?

There aren’t any crazy strict rules…someone sets up a call with me, and in that consult call inquiry form, I asked how they found me (“referral” being an option, and a field to say who referred them.

Or a past client will email me to connect me to a potential client.

If that person decides to book me, once their project is complete, I send the referring client a payment through Paypal.

My current standard web design package starts at $5,000, so if someone were to sign up for that package, I would send that past client $500.

As I increase my rates, I also increase my [referral fee] so that past clients who are sending those people to me feel appreciated.

Q: How do you let past clients know about your generous referral program?

I typically tell my clients on the website launch call that I’m going to follow up with an email with a testimonial questionnaire, and a video walk through of their website, and that is also when I mention my referral program.

Inside the actual follow-up email, I have a link to [a page on] my website that I keep updated with how much my referral fee is at that time.

Q: Is there anything you do to stand out from other designers that makes it easier for past clients to refer you?

The main reason clients end up choosing me (beyond being referred) is my experience and knowledge of SEO and being able to fully optimize a website.

So I’m going beyond just condensing the images down to a smaller size, which I know some designers don’t even do. I make sure image filenames and alt text and title tags and all the different back-end elements are all optimized.

So that’s a major theme. People like that I have both the creative and the technical side of websites.

If you’re charging premium rates, it’s important you have basic [SEO] knowledge.


Q: Any tips for new designers just getting started with referrals?

You can definitely start small.

When I first started, my packages were around $2K for a website so my [referral fee] was around $100-$200. And then working your way up from there, whatever you feel comfortable with.

Yeah, I’m giving away some money, but they’re basically just handing this client to me…so that’s time and energy that I didn’t have to spend advertising (and talking in DMs trying to convince someone to set up a call with me.)

[That Client] is already ready to go because someone they trust has been like “hey…you should hire them!”

Q: Do you find that most of the people past clients refer to you are actually your ideal clients?

Yeah, I would definitely say that most of the people that sign are very much my ideal clients.

I love working with online coaches and creatives, and once I work with an online coach, it’s like, “oh, hey…here’s my other online coaching friend, etc.”

For the most part, I feel like I’ve become very selective with who I take on. So if I feel I’m not the best fit for someone, I’m very upfront about that! I don’t take on everyone.

you know, or if I you know, just don’t feel like it’s the best fit in terms of like their business and whether or not like I am excited to actually take on that project that I don’t take on everyone.

Q: Do you think that your design skills are the #1 most important thing you’ve needed to succeed as web designer?

I would say that definitely, it is very important, because that determines (to a degree) if people are actually going to hire you.

Iif they go to your portfolio, and they don’t really see anything that they like, then they’re probably not going to hire you.

So, yes, your design skills, you know, they are very important…

But you really have to know how to market yourself and understand who you’re speaking to…and how you should be speaking to them in a way that’s actually going to convert them into clients.

Because you can have a beautiful portfolio with amazing designs, but if you can’t speak to your ideal client, or you’re not able to attract the ideal clients to your website, then they’re not going to book with you.

So I would say that having your messaging and positioning nailed down in terms of marketing is just as important as having really great designs on your website.


Q: Have you ever dealt with imposter syndrome as a web designer? And how did you overcome it?

I remember the first time that I pitched a client and told him that the website was going to be $1K, being so scared and like “Oh my god, they’re not gonna hire! Who am I?”

It’s a long journey journey…I’ve been doing this for three and a half years full time so far, and there’s always periods where I deal with imposter syndrome.

But I also feel like that’s where educating yourself comes into play.

I started with Paige’s Square Secrets™️ & Square Secrets Business™️ courses, and then from there I’ve taken a couple coding and copywriting courses.

As I’ve raised my rates I’ve also been investing in that professional development and so I feel like that’s really helped as well because then I’m able to bring more to the table when clients hire me.

Q: Can you share some encouraging words for new and aspiring designers hoping to do what you’ve done?

I would say to not give up! In the beginning, it can definitely feel really overwhelming.

There’s not only new skills that you’re trying to learn, but you’re also trying to learn how to run a business and market yourself.

So it can be very overwhelming and easy to kind of put things on the back burner and say, “Oh, I’m gonna get to it.”

But it’s really best if you just take it day by day, and tackle nearly little projects at a time, writing down your accomplishments and celebrating every little win.

Every time I land a client I still dance around my room because it puts me in the right energy and mindset.

When you really appreciate those small wins, it makes it easier as time goes on and you have to handle more obstacles in your business.

It does get easier, but you’re never not going to be dealing with obstacles or overcoming something new.

So you have to be able to keep yourself in the right mindset and keep yourself going.

So anytime that you can put yourself in the right mindset and have positive energy, then it’s just gonna be a lot easier for you to run your business.

Q: What would you say to someone who is on the fence about taking the courses?

I would say to just dive right in, because it’s definitely worth it.

Taking the courses changed my business entirely in the beginning because I was just trying to go off of free blog post, and even though Paige has written like every blog post under the sun about Squarespace…

…there’s nothing like taking a course where you learn literally everything that you need to know in like a step-by-step, guided video series.

It’s worth every penny and it’s just going set you up for success, and save you a lot of time compared to reading all those blog posts!

And then once you take them you know you are really able to launch your business and just get started working with clients!


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